Portsmouth and Ross County both defied the odds this weekend to advance to their country’s cup finals. Both cups provide a place in the Europa League to their winners. Additionally, by tradition, if the winner of the cup is already slated for Europe based on league position, then the cup runner up takes that place. Since Portsmouth and Ross County are facing opponents–Chelsea and Dundee United, respectively–that are as good as qualified for Europe, it would seem that Pompey and the Staggies have lucked into Europe already. Yay!
Except that they have not. In one case, it’s the club’s own fault. In the other, well, the rules may have been changed without telling anyone. Or not. It’s confusing.
Shortly after defeating Tottenham yesterday (with the help of the to-be-relaid-once-again pitch and some ref), Portsmouth’s front office collectively slapped their foreheads saying “we knew we forgot something”. It seems that before English teams get a UEFA club license (necessary to play in Europe the next season) they have to file paperwork with the FA first. The deadline to do so was back in March.
Here’s the odd thing. Portsmouth won their quarterfinal match on the sixth of March. Since that day, they have known that they were possibly only one step away from going to Europe. You’d think that, even with all of the shake ups, there would be at least one person, a constant if you will, who would have noticed that. It would be even better if that person had been at the club for about 8 years and had a hands-on role in running the club–say a CEO position.
Oh no, what bad luck. Peter Storrie, a man who fit all of those requirements, stepped down on March 12 from his role as CEO. While he has stayed on as a consultant, his consulting did not include telling anyone “don’t forget to get a UEFA license, just in case.” Bad luck, that.
So now Portsmouth are left scrambling. There is a Europa League position just dangling there in front of them, but they have no way of seizing it. Administrator Andrew Andronikou is saying that Pompey will appeal to the FA over getting the license on more or less humanitarian grounds. I would submit, however, that the FA would gain more from sending a seventh-placed EPL side into the Europa League (a competition England are doing well in this season, by the way) rather than a team which is likely to be stripped bare during the close season.
Sorry, Pompey, I don’t see this working out for you at all.
As for Ross County–the guideposts changed. Or maybe not. It’s hard to tell, because the SFA never told anyone what the guideposts were.
Back in 2006, when Gretna were still alive, they were a Second Division team who made an improbable run to the Scottish FA Cup final. That match ended with a heartbreaking shootout loss to Hearts. However, the parachute wasn’t so bad–an entry into the UEFA Cup, as Hearts finished second in the league and qualified for the Champions League.
Unfortunately for Ross County, no one seemed to remember that last bit–that Hearts pipped Rangers that year for second place, and with it a Champions League spot. So when the SFA took the time to point out that Ross County had not as yet qualified for Europe, Staggies fans were a little put out.
But there is hope yet for the Highland outfit. They can still qualify by winning the cup, of course (something Pompey do not currently have as a fall back), or by hoping Dundee United make up the five point gap in six games on a reeling Celtic squad. Given the current form game, Ross County had better hope that the Terrors have overtaken Celtic to end the season by the time the cup final is played on May 15th.
While Ross County are much more likely to go to Europe at this point that Portsmouth, I’d say they have a 30% chance of having United pass Celtic, and thus getting the automatic bid, and a 10% chance of beating United for that right in the cup final. That said, I’ll be cheering for both outcomes (and the firing of Mark McGhee).
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